how many starry night paintings did van gogh paint
Art historians have determined that van Gogh took some liberties with the view from his second story bedroom window, a theory supported by the fact that the studio in which he painted was on the building’s first floor. He also left out the window’s less-than-welcoming bars, a detail he included in another letter to Theo. In May of 1889, he wrote, “Through the iron-barred window. I can see an enclosed square of wheat . above which, in the morning, I watch the sun rise in all its glory.”
After experiencing a mental breakdown in the winter of 1888, van Gogh checked himself in to the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum near Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. The view became the basis of his most iconic work. Of his inspiration, van Gogh wrote in one of his many letters to his brother Theo, “This morning I saw the country from my window a long time before sunrise, with nothing but the morning star, which looked very big.”
The nocturne series was limited by the difficulties posed by painting such scenes from nature, i.e., at night.  The first painting in the series was Café Terrace at Night, painted in Arles in early September 1888, followed by Starry Night Over the Rhône later that same month. Van Gogh’s written statements concerning these paintings provide further insight into his intentions for painting night studies in general and The Starry Night in particular.
F1541r Landscape with Cypresses, Van Gogh Museum
A Modern and Contemporary art study set for test-takers, teachers, and lifelong learners alike.
By 1888, van Gogh had returned to the French countryside, where he would remain until his death. There, close once again to the peasants who had inspired him early on, he concentrated on painting landscapes, portraits (of himself and others), domestic interiors, and still lifes full of personal symbolism.
An end-of-the-world cataclysm invades Van Gogh’s Starry Night, one of apocalypse filled with melting aerolites and comets adrift. One has the impression that the artist has expelled his inner conflict onto a canvas. Everything here is brewed in a huge cosmic fusion. The sole exception is the village in the foreground with its architectural elements. Several months after painting Starry Night, Van Gogh wrote: “Why, I say to myself, should the spots of light in the firmament be less accessible to us than the black spots on the map of France. Just as we take the train to go to Tarascon or Rouen, we take death to go to a star.”
The artist is looking down on a village from an imaginary viewpoint. It is framed by his newly-discovered motifs: at left a cypress towers skywards, at right a group of olive trees cluster into the cloud, and against the horizon run the undulating waves of the Alpilles. Van Gogh’s treatment of his motifs prompts associations with fire, mist and the sea,and the elemental power of the natural scene combines with the intangible cosmic drama of the stars. The eternal natural universe cradles the human settlement idyllically, yet also surrounds it menacingly. The village itself might be anywhere, Saint-Remy or Nuenen recalled in a nocturnal mood. The church spire seems to be stretching up into the elements, at once an antenna and a lightning conductor, like some kind of provincial Eiffel Tower (the fascination of which was never far from van Gogh’s nocturnes). Van Gogh’s mountains and trees (particularly the cypresses) had hardly been discovered but they seemed to crackle with an electric charge. Confident that he had grasped their natural appearance, van Gogh set out to remake their image in the service of the symbolic. Together with the firmament, these landscape features are singing the praises of Creation in this painting.
‘Look, I have had another dream’ he said, ‘I thought I saw the sun, the moon and eleven stars, bowing to me.’
New York: The Museum of Modern Art